Jerzy Gregorek became a weightlifter at the age of thirteen. He was coached by Andrzej Kowalczyk in Szczecin and by Waldemar Baszanowski in Warsaw. At the age of 23 he reached a status of the first class Olympic weightlifter and shortly after he incurred an injury that resulted in the paralysis of his legs for several months, removing him from the sport for many years. His recovery became a long and learning process. He got help from physical therapists, chiropractors, Yogis, weightlifting coaches and even from meditators during his journey of restoring his health and strength.
He immigrated to the United States together with his wife, Aniela, from Poland in 1986, as political refugees during the Solidarity Movement. As soon as he landed in Los Angeles he contacted Bob Hise II, the founder of AWA (American Weightlifting Association), and asked him to help him to get a job as a weightlifting coach. Bob offered his training center in Eagle Rock for training and coaching but he could not help Jerzy to earn his living doing it. He simply said, “Olympic Weightlifting coaches from Russia, Bulgaria and Poland open auto repair shops to earn their living.” Jerzy did not want to repair cars so he asked Bob if there was any other way. “There is something new that some people do in gyms today to earn their living but Olympic weightlifting coaches do not like it because it is not about serious weightlifting,” Bob said. “What is it?” Jerzy asked. “It is called a personal trainer. It is somebody who helps people in many ways: to get in shape, to heal injuries, to lose weight, basically anything people need to get better.” Bob Hise III smiled and added, “But do not forget about us after you get rich. OK?”
Next week Jerzy was hired by Aram, the owner of Power Source Gym in Burbank, as a personal trainer. After he asked the owner what he should do, Aram said, “I really do not know. Just go to people and offer your help and if they like it they will hire you.” Jerzy began his journey as a personal trainer and loved the challenge of creating plans and strategies for any person’s desire. Whatever he learned from weightlifting and from his spinal injury recovery helped him to face any challenge a person could have: getting more power to compete in any sport, healing injury, or losing weight. In North Hollywood Gold’s Gym, Jerzy coached and prepared for Teakwondo fights Billy Blanks who invented Tae Bo and introduced it to the public in 1990s.
In 1996, he assemble his own Olympic weightlifting team and coached it at Venice Gold’s gym but after three years when the team became too advanced and needed a better facility, he introduced it to Doc Kreis, UCLA strength head coach. Doc loved the presence of Olympic weightlifting team and its influence on Bruins so he helped Jerzy to move the team to UCLA. In 2000, Jerzy founded the UCLA Weightlifting Team and became its head coach. During his four years of coaching Jerzy coached UCLA athletes, coaches, and weightlifters. Walter Chi won State Championship, Michael Casey and Danny Henry competed in Masters Weightlifting Championships and today they are successful weightlifting coaches in Los Angeles. Also, Jerzy rehabilitated from knee injury and coached Dr. Phil Wagner, Bruins volleyball coach, and helped him to design his first coaching gym called Sparta Performance Science, very successful athletic gym located in Menlo Park. Recently his client Tim Ferris published his new book titled Tools of Titans. Tim writes in it that he practices The Happy Body routine on a near-daily basis to improve and sustain his mobility.
In 1994, Jerzy finished rehabilitating his spine and began competing in weightlifting Master division winning two World Weightlifting Championships and two World Masters Games. His National Masters records established in 1999 are still unbeatable after seventeen years.
Together with his wife Aniela and while working as trainers in L.A., they became aware that people needed a dramatic change in lifestyle, not simply an hour a day of supervised exercise, to achieve real results. The Happy Body Program grew from this insight, supplying definable goals and a plan to sustain improvement. By coaching the UCLA weightlifting team and observing trained athletes they began to integrate scientific principles to better refine and expand their system.
Today The Happy Body Program has helped thousands of people transform their bodies and lives. In working with clients over thirty years, Jerzy discovered the power of stories to help change belief systems and habits. It was by addressing feelings, not simply absorbing information, that clients were able to implement the simple but often difficult solutions they faced with diet and exercise. At this point Jerzy realized that his own experiences with immigration, art and poetry gave him a different perspective, one that could make a tremendous difference. He knew that even informed clients were still vulnerable to making the wrong choices. It takes emotional intelligence, built up through a different kind of support that addresses the unconscious side of ourselves, before a person can really say “I got this,” meaning to understand and ready to pursue. Therefore, his last book is titled: I Got This: The Art of Getting Grit.
Jerzy understood that coaching is not only knowledge but also inspiration, motivation, and roll modeling. We can learn fast what to do but it takes years of practice to actually manifest it.
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